Global Conference: Programs Breakout Sessions

Step 1: Solicit Program Proposals

  • Review evaluations from previous conferences to learn about program topics the membership would like to see. The ED will also have additional member research to share from other surveys and observations.
  • The Board Liaison will provide additional feedback regarding topics that fit with the board's strategic plan.
  • MBA CSEA utilizes online software program to collect and review submissions for program proposals. 
  • Two deadlines are used for program submissions, with proposals submitted by the first deadline receiving priority in the selection process.
  • The Board Liaison will provide the committee with a list of the ideal number of sessions for each target audience.  
  • After the first deadline for proposal submissions has passed, the committee may invite speakers to present topics in areas that have been identified as areas of focus by the board, but do not have enough session submissions according to the board's target list (i.e. employers). In some cases, complimentary conference registrations can be offered for speakers the committee would like to invite. Obtain approval from the Executive Director before reaching out to speakers, per the Conference Policies. The ED and Board Liaison will coordinate outreach to invited speakers.

Step 2: Review Breakout Session Proposals

  • Session reviewers are selected, to include: Programs Committee members (all committee members not just those who are working on breakout sessions), the Conference Co-Chairs, Board Liaison, and Executive Director. Committee members will be recused of reviewing any proposals that they are presenting. The Executive Director will also invite additional reviewers to ensure all target audiences (listed below) are represented among the reviewers.  Target audiences are as follows:
    1. Directors
    2. Seasoned professionals (may or may not be directors)
    3. Specialty masters 
    4. Part-time MBAs/working professionals
    5. Employers
    6. Career coaches
    7. Employer relations
    8. Operations 
  • The Executive Director provides each reviewer with a login to the Call for Programs software and instructions for how to review each session.
  • Session reviewers are asked to rate each session within the software using the following criteria:
    • Proposal quality - how well is the proposal organized? Is it complete? Are there grammatical errors or other concerns? This provides an idea of how organized the session will be. 
    • Newness/Diversity of topic -  the committee should make sure there is a wide range of topics presented, including those that are new, innovative, thought-provoking, and have never been presented at a conference before.
    • Relevancy/fit within the organization’s mission and strategic goals, as communicated to the committee by the Board Liaison and Executive Director. 
    • Level of interaction with conference participants. Attendees like to share information and interact, rather than listening to a lecture.
    • Appeal of topic - how practical and actionable is the topic? Will it appeal to our membership?
    • Presenter qualifications - what credentials does the presenter have that makes them an expert on this topic?
In addition to that, reviewers should pay attention to the following criteria (comments can be added to the write-in portion of the review software). These items are not part of the decision-making process regarding proposal acceptance, but they provide guidance regarding additional information the committee may seek from speakers. 
  • Title:  Is the title clear and easy to understand?  Is the title catchy and compelling? 
  • Summary Does the summary clearly communicate what a participant will learn in the session and why they should attend?  Is it easy to scan, and does it make one want to attend this session?
  • Intended Audience Do the selected target audiences match the content that will be covered?  Are there additional target audiences that this content might be relevant to?
  • Presenter(s):  For sessions where schools are the sole presenter, would it make sense to add an employer to co-present to broaden the target audience?  For sessions with a vendor as a presenter, are they paired with a school and/or employer?
  • Frequency: Generally, we try not to have more than one breakout session from each vendor, and no more than two from the same employer or school.

Step 3: Select Breakout Sessions

  • Once the reviews are complete, the Executive Director will download a report that includes all reviewer comments (anonymous) and send it to the subcommittee who is working on breakout sessions. A tracking document will also be created in Smartsheet to keep track of the status of each session.
  • A smaller group within the Programs Committee that is working on breakout session makes recommendations for session selections based on the results of the reviews. The ED will add notes to the report regarding "must have" edits or additional information that may be needed before accepting a proposal. Special attention should also be paid to the reviews completed by employers for the sessions that include employers as a target audience (i.e., if employers indicate that the session does not apply to them, employers will be removed as a target audience unless significant changes are made to the session content). The Executive Director approves all accept/edit/reject decisions before outreach it made to the speakers. If a committee member submits a proposal to present, he/she ideally would not be a part of this group. If it's necessary for them to participate, they will not be a part of the conversation when their session is reviewed. 
  • For sessions that involve vendors, a separate group of board members will review based on the Conference Policies.
  • During the first round of reviews after the first deadline, the highest rated sessions can be accepted (upon approval). Other sessions can be placed on hold until the second round of reviews, if desired. Generally, no rejections are made until the second and final submission deadline. Special attention should be paid to the maximum number of breakout sessions that are available within the conference schedule (which can be obtained from the ED), so that we don't accept more sessions than we have room for.
  • Additional criteria used for session selection is as follows:
    • Preferably, no more than one breakout session will be presented by the same vendor. 
    • Preferably, no more than two sessions will be presented by the same school or employer, unless there is a large gap in programming and additional sessions are needed to fill that gap (additional speakers should be invited first).
    • Sessions should not focus on one particular product or service. Presenters can mention a product or service if it helps facilitate the topic of the session, but multiple products/services should be mentioned in an effort to not appear biased or provide a sales pitch. For similar reasons, a product or service should not be demo'd during the session. Doing so puts MBA CSEA in a difficult position when it comes to the product's competitors, and also may not be applicable to all participants if there is a cost involved to use the product. 

Step 4: Communicate with Presenters

  • Once the reviews are complete and sessions are selected (and approved by the ED), communications will be made with the presenters as follows:
    • The Executive Assistant will communicate with all accepted and rejected sessions.
    • If tweaks are requested by the committee (including a chance in audience, clarification needed, or significant change in session details), a committee member will be assigned to follow up. Templates are provided for each communication. Use discretion and sensitivity when asking a presenter to potentially make a change to their program (as a request, not a requirement). For example, if it isn’t clear in the write-up why a session is applicable to a specific audience, first gather more information about the session and then suggest a tweak to the session write-up, explaining that the tweak could increase session attendance and chance of being accepted. Avoid implying that the session will be accepted even if changes are not made. See the sample communications for more details.

Other Responsibilities/Details

  • Once all of the sessions are confirmed, the committee assists the ED with placing each session within the conference schedule. The committee will make a prediction about the audience size for each session (high, medium, low), which will assist with the room allocation. The committee also helps ensure that speakers who are conducting two sessions are not scheduled at the same time, and that there is at least one session for each target audience during each breakout session timeslot. MBA CSEA selects timeslots based on all of these criteria. We do not accept individual requests for timeslots from speakers. 
  • Make sure all selected speakers register for the conference. The Executive Assistant will audit the speaker roster on a regular basis and let the committee know about any speakers who are not registered.
  • If changes are needed to the speaking roster for any sessions, the new speakers must be vetted by the committee using the conference policies before they are approved. The committee member or Executive Assistant should also make sure the session presenters are aware that the new speakers must register for the conference.